No one ever mentions Millennium Monument, the neoclassical peristyle that is both a literal throwback (an almost identical one was at the same location for about half the 20th century, part of Burnham’s grand plan) and an aesthetic one in the midst of a giant postmodern architectural theme park.
That’s because it’s boring and ugly. But it’s boring and ugly in a very interesting way, my favorite aesthetic object lesson in the city.
Neoclassical architecture is the official architecture of overarching civic power and old-school fuck-you money.* Some of it’s actually good (the delicate Wrigley building), some of it’s endearingly narcissistic (the Tribune Tower), some of it’s kind of dull, like the Millennium Monument. But it all says one thing: We built this city on rock and reputation. Rarely is it quite so stubbornly obvious as the Millennium Monument, which is why I begrudgingly love it.
*Alternately, baby-boomer fuck-you money is more van der Rohevian.